Democratic Republic of Congo Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide

Cover: Democratic Republic of Congo Media and Telecoms Landscape Guide
(credit: Internews)

Infoasaid produced this media landscape guide about DRC in December 2012.

Media overview

  • Radio is the main source of news and information in DRC.
  • However, many parts of this vast country are beyond the reach of local radio stations broadcasting on FM.
  • In remote areas, people still rely heavily on the Short Wave broadcasts of international stations, particularly Radio France Internationale (RFI) and the BBC World Service.
  • Television is popular in the main towns and cities, but TV has little penetration in rural areas, where most people lack electricity.
  • There are several daily and weekly newspapers, but these have a very small circulation. Newspapers are only available in Kinshasa and a handful of other large cities.
  • Nearly all Congolese newspapers are published in French.
  • However, African languages, particularly Lingala, Swahili, Kikongo and Tshiluba, are widely used alongside French on radio and television.
  • This makes broadcasting much more accessible than the print media for the vast majority of Congolese who speak little or no French.
  • Newspapers are influential among the affluent and educated ruling elite. But even the largest dailies in Kinshasa such as Le Phare, L’Avenir and Le Potentiel, only print about 2,000 copies.
  • Newspapers cost at least US$1each and are simply too expensive for ordinary Congolese to buy on a regular basis. 
  • No daily newspapers are published outside the capital.
  • However, many provincial cities support a clutch of weekly, fortnightly and monthly newspapers that print and sell a few hundred copies.
  • Very few people have access to the internet.
  • Where internet access does exist, it is mainly via a direct satellite connection or through the mobile telecommunications network.
  • Internet speeds are slow and access costs are expensive.
  • Most Congolese internet users go online at internet cafes.
  • Mobile phone use is widespread and growing, but network coverage is limited to the main towns and the rural areas close by.
  • The ITU reckoned there were 15.7 million active mobile phone lines in DRC at the end of 2011.
  • This gave a mobile penetration rate of 23%.
  • However, many handset owners have SIM cards for more than one network so these figures undoubtedly overstate the number of people who actually own a mobile phone.
  • DRC has a varied and vibrant media, but the standards of news reporting and radio and TV programme production are generally low.
  • Furthermore, the government often uses a heavy hand to clamp down on critical voices.
  • Radio and television stations that incur the government’s displeasure are frequently shut down down for periods which vary from two or three days to several months.
  • The DRC has several hundred radio stations, many of which broadcast from small and remote rural communities.
  • The country also has more than 80 TV stations, but most only cater for local audiences in the city where they are based.

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